Expand food basket under PDS, says WHO scientist

Millets, pulses, fruits, vegetables, animal proteins should be part of it, says expert

August 11, 2021 12:48 am | Updated 02:57 am IST - CHENNAI

CHENNAI, 09/10/2017: Soumya Swaminathan, World Health Organisation Deputy Direcor General. Photo: R. Ragu

CHENNAI, 09/10/2017: Soumya Swaminathan, World Health Organisation Deputy Direcor General. Photo: R. Ragu

To ensure that sufficient nutrition is available to people in lower socio-economic groups, it is necessary to expand the food basket under public distribution system, said Sowmya Swaminathan, chief scientist of the World Health Organisation.

At a session on Tuesday on ‘Needed policy change for India and South Asia to improve nutritional status of children and women’ chaired by her, participants from India and Bangladesh, besides officials from the Food and Agriculture Organisation, shared their experiences.

The seminar was held on the final day of the three-day international consultation titled, “Ensuring food and nutrition security in the context of climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic,” organised by M.S.Swaminathan Research Foundation.

The participants included Gagandeep Kang, microbiology professor of Christian Medical College, Vellore; Renu Swarup, Secretary, Biotechnology Department; Vinod Paul, member of NITI Aayog; Kaosar Afsana, professor, BRAC University, Bangladesh; Zitouni Ould-Dada, deputy director, Food and Agriculture Organization, and Arjan De Wagt, chief of nutrition, Unicef.

Dr. Swarup explained the work done by the DBT and gave a comprehensive overview of the Poshan Abhiyan. Science-driven approach is important to improve maternal health to prevent low weight births, she said, emphasising the maternal education related to child health and new approaches to feeding.

Dr. Kang recalled her research work to urge scientific approach to feeding.

Optimum nutrition

Dr. Paul, a paediatrician by training, called for intensive breastfeeding, kangaroo mother care and guidance to change behaviours of families towards providing optimum nutrition to children.

“We are still behind in providing diverse nutritious complementary food to babies. We need to improve quantity and quality of food to babies and the timing of providing these foods through a behavioural change campaign,” he also said.

The experts emphasised the need for communication tools to bring behavioural change among families and individuals and communities.

Dr. Sowmya proposed an expansion of the food basket of the public distribution system for those belonging to socio-economically weaker sections.

“The current basket is taking care of food insecurity by providing only cereals. Nutritional security has a big gap in the current system. We need to fill it with millets, pulses, fruits, vegetables and animal proteins. We have to think about policy intervention, which can make these food baskets affordable to people. They can access which is currently sub-optimal,” she said.

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